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Anthropogenic noise is a widespread and growing form of sensory pollution associated with the expansion of human infrastructure. One specific source of constant and intense noise is that produced by compressors used for the extraction and transportation of natural gas. Terrestrial arthropods play a central role in many ecosystems, and given that numerous species rely upon airborne sounds and substrate-borne vibrations in their life histories, we predicted that increased background sound levels or the presence of compressor noise would influence their distributions. In the second largest natural gas field in the United States (San Juan Basin, New Mexico, USA), we assessed differences in the abundances of terrestrial arthropod families and community structure as a function of compressor noise and background sound level. Using pitfall traps, we simultaneously sampled five sites adjacent to well pads that possessed operating compressors, and five alternate, quieter well pad sites that lacked compressors, but were otherwise similar. We found a negative association between sites with compressor noise or higher levels of background sound and the abundance of five arthropod families and one genus, a positive relationship between loud sites and the abundance of one family, and no relationship between noise level or compressor presence and abundance for six families and two genera. Despite these changes, we found no evidence of community turnover as a function of background sound level or site type (compressor and noncompressor). Our results indicate that anthropogenic noise differentially affects the abundances of some arthropod families. These preliminary findings point to a need to determine the direct and indirect mechanisms driving these observed responses. Given the diverse and important ecological functions provided by arthropods, changes in abundances could have ecological implications. Therefore, we recommend the consideration of arthropods in the environmental assessment of noise-producing infrastructure.

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This document was originally published by Wiley in Ecology and Evolution. This work is provided under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license. Details regarding the use of this work can be found at: doi: 10.1002/ece3.2698

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